"In Memory of W.B. Yeats" is all about death. After all, it's an elegy, a poem written in memory of a person who has passed away. Death has a way of making people consider what it means to be alive – especially if the dead person happens to share your career path and maybe even your worldview. In this poem, Yeats's passing becomes an occasion for Auden to think through the complicated legacy Yeats left behind – as well as the ways in which Yeats's work forever shaped the poetic landscape. Yup, it's a pretty big topic to take on in one little poem. But if anyone's up to the task, it's Auden.
"In Memory of W.B. Yeats" isn't one elegy – it's three.
"In Memory of W.B. Yeats" mourns the loss of Yeats the poet, not Yeats the man.
Why is it that we read poetry? We get Auden's answer to that question in the poem "In Memory of W.B. Yeats": poetry moves in ways that people can't. It lasts in ways that people don't. And it makes us feel things about people and places that we might not otherwise spend any time thinking about at all. Take Yeats, for example; when was the last time you thought about him? Exactly. As Auden works through various versions of elegies, we begin to feel a bit of what it must have been like for Auden to lose such an important presence in his life.
Art is the one thing that can change people's minds in times of darkness and despair.
As this poem asserts, art doesn't ever change anything. It just offers fresh perspectives.
William Butler Yeats was a giant among poets. His works dominated the literary and political landscape for quite a few decades, as a matter of fact. And his death left a big, gaping hole in the world of poetry – not to mention the world in general. But before you paint his monument in gold, read "In Memory of W.B. Yeats." This poem asks us to think about Yeats's failings as well as his triumphs. After all, the only real way to express admiration is to do so honestly, right?
Auden's elegy values Yeats more for his political commitment than for his poetic virtuosity.
Auden's elegy values Yeats's work because it can express sentiments that politics and business can't.
Although Auden admires Yeats the poet, he seems to have less regard for Yeats the man in this poem.
"In Memory of W.B. Yeats" depicts the world as a lonely place. Funny enough, though, people don't even seem to realize how alone and isolated they are. The way this poem describes it, the world is almost like the set of a horror movie – you know, the kind where people can't figure out that they've been turned into zombies? Poetry may not be a perfect cure for all this isolation, but according to Auden, it can help people see the truth of their situation, even if it forces them to acknowledge their own loneliness. And that's something. As your middle school teachers always said, knowing is half the battle.
Even though poetry can point out people's isolation, it can't do anything to solve their problems.
Poetry can help combat the pervasive loneliness of our lives by making people aware of their own isolation.